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“50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice”

April 17, 2009

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education–I know, I know…a hotbed for topical controversy and profound disagreements–takes issue with Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”, the signature book on grammar and style taught to most American high school and college students who study the subject. I heard Geoffery K. Pullum, the author, discuss on NPR this week the surprisingly fervent criticism (including, allegedly, ethnic slurs) that has been directed at him. I know that grammarians tend to be forceful and unyielding in their opinions, so it doesn’t completely surprise me. He’s a slightly cantankerous fellow, so I don’t know that it should have surprised him, either. But controversy aside, there are some interesting and solid criticisms of “The Elements of Style” as well as a much needed discussion of the unnecessarily restrictive rules it contains. If you’re interested at all in the exciting and thrilling world of grammar controversy (and how, exactly, to distinguish between passive and active voice), this is the article for you.

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